Spider-Man: Far from Home

After Avengers: Endgame, the epic conclusion of Marvel's multi-year Infinity Stones story arc, Spider-Man: Far from Home feels like a feature-length epilogue.

With Spider-Man now seemingly the only superhero currently working in this post-Thanos world – aside from the handful of deaths in Endgame, it's not explained why the bajillion other do-gooders who participated in Endgame's final battle are now AWOL – Spidey's alter ego Peter Parker (Tom Holland) really just wants to have a breezy European vacation with his high school classmates, mainly in the hopes of wooing his new crush MJ (Zendaya).

Plans change, of course, when a quartet of giant, parallel universe monsters known as the Elementals appear in the great European cities to wreak havoc. Enter a new hero: Quentin Beck, nicknamed Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has also popped in from an alternate Earth, and who needs Spidey's help to defeat the monsters.

Whenever a movie's first half plays out like its second – in this case, Peter and Quentin team up suspiciously quickly to defeat those baddies – you know it's a fake-out, and that a big twist is coming. And while I won't give anything away, you don't need to be a genius to know not to trust some dude named "Mysterio".

While everything that worked about Spider-Man: Homecoming is nominally back for the sequel – same appealing cast, same director, same screenwriters, many of the same key crew members – Far from Home just doesn't work as well. The main problem is the Mysterio character: he's just not well-developed. And while Gyllenhaal has delivered some terrific performances throughout his career, his work can be flat and shallow when he's not playing the lead. (See how terrible he is in Bong Joon-ho's Okja.) The point of Mysterio is to make Peter believe he's found a new father figure to replace Tony Stark. But Gyllenhaal just doesn't sell it. There's something false about his character from the get-go, and that keeps us from connecting with Far from Home on any emotional level. I enjoyed myself – it's a fun popcorn movie, often deliriously paced – but I wasn't charmed enough to get past the utter slightness of the story.